Silence is Golden

Don't poke the bear. You'll only piss him off.
Don’t poke the bear. You’ll only piss him off.

The weather was looking mighty cold for tomorrow, and today was unseasonably warm. So I quickly changed, strapped on my reflective riding gear (extra-visible gloves, ankle straps, helmet light, tail lights, handle bar light, and a couple of these strapped to my frame), and got rolling.

I’m pretty lucky, in that other than a couple of high-traffic streets to cross or ride on for a few hundred feet, I can get to the bike trails pretty quickly. When I ride solo – especially this time of year when it gets dark early – I typically stick to the trails. Less worry about becoming a smear on the asphalt by someone who is texting about something that is obviously more important than life itself.

After a nice 28 mile roll, I was almost home. There’s this small hill – not steep, but just long enough to make you work – right before the left turn into my neighborhood. I hammered it as hard as I could, and crested doing about 18 mph. Behind me a ways I could see the light of a vehicle. With my left turn a couple hundred feet ahead, I signaled left and started taking the lane.

Before I commit to a turn, I always check to make sure that if someone is behind me, they don’t try to pass me in the oncoming lane. That would be bad. Thankfully, I followed my standard operating procedure, because sure enough, that vehicle that was behind me (turns out it was a motorcycle) pulls into the oncoming lane and passes me right as I was preparing to turn.

Apparently it seems that waiting 3 seconds for me to clear the road was detrimental to some super-critical plans he’d made for this evening. You’d figure that a motorcycle rider, having to deal with the problems of road riding when you’re not driving the latest gas-hybrid-electric-solar-water-wind-coal-powered Behemoth XL, would be a little more understanding about what cyclists have to deal with out there on the road. But, maybe not.

Now, I didn’t get hit. But there was absolutely no reason – zero, nada, none – that he should’ve passed me when I was clearly signaling my intention to turn. He was in the wrong.

And then it happened. The New Yorker in me jumped to the fore and shouted “I know you could see me signaling!” as I made my left. I give myself a little credit for restraining myself from adding, shall I say, colorful metaphors? At this point, I saw out of the corner of my eye that he’d slowed down, and it appeared he was going to try to follow me. He didn’t; whether ┬ábecause of too much oncoming traffic, because he thought it wasn’t worth it, because he didn’t know what would happen if he did catch up to me, or because (highly unlikely) he realized he was an idiot and wanted to beg my forgiveness, who knows. But, he kept riding his way, and I kept riding mine.

That should be it, right? A stupid act, a near miss, shouted words, time for holiday cheer. But there’s a problem: nothing happened to me this night, but that doesn’t mean that nothing will happen the next time I – or more importantly and likely some other cyclist – has to encounter this guy. If I had kept my mouth shut, he’d have gone on his merry way, and I doubt he would’ve given me a second thought. Hell, he obviously barely gave me a first one. But his attempt to follow me – however brief – indicated that my shouting had caught his attention.

To non-cyclists, we’re all alike. So why not take out his anger with me on some other, unsuspecting, innocent rider? I have to live with the thought that some other cyclist may have to put up with the displeasure that I instilled in this man. Now, it’s possible he’d act like an ass anyway no matter what. But I made it more likely. I poked the bear. And that’s something that I shouldn’t do it if it means that someone else may have to face the consequences of my action.

So, fellow cyclists, just in case you happen to run into this motorcycle rider, and just in case he wouldn’t have done something to you but remembers me shouting and does, I apologize. If you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t think about what you’re facing. Think about what other cyclists might have to face because of our actions. It’s hard enough out there on us. We don’t need to make it worse.

The next time something happens to me, I’ll keep my mouth shut. At least, until I get home.